Lyon – 2023

Lyon – 2023

I was excited to visit Lyon because my Sierra Club kayaking/artist friend, Isabelle, had moved to the area about a year ago. We made plans to meet for lunch and I arrived a day before the rest of the Berkeley Folk Dancing group to spend some time with her. My agenda was to see the Lugdunum Roman Museum, to see how the famous Lyon silk damask is made, to enjoy some of Lyon’s famous food, and to get a picture of this beautiful footbridge (passarelle) which is officially named after Abbé Paul Couturier, a pioneer of ecumenism in the early 1900s but, because it goes to the church of Saint Georges, most people refer to is as Pasarelle Saint Georges.

Stock Image of Passerelle Saint Georges with Fourvière Noted

Isabelle and I met at the fountain facing the Museum of Fine Arts and had lunch after visiting the museum. After lunch at Le Bouchon des Filles, we walked for more than an hour in the hot sun to try to reach the passarelle but we gave up and retreated to the cool underground metro where I showed her how to buy a single ticket using the tumbler-cylinder to select. She visits Lyon rarely even through it is a short train ride away.

Bronze fountain commemorating the four great rivers of France

Lyon City Hall in the Square with Museum of Fine Arts which I visited with Isabelle

Lunch at Le Bouchon des Filles with Isabelle

The next day, the tour group took a bus tour of Fourvière and the old part of the city. The level of embellishment inside the church is astonishing! The arches! The mosaics!

It wasn’t until I got back to Lyon at the end of the cruise in early July that I was able to find the Passarelle Saint-Georges, early on a drizzly Sunday morning.

As the rain got heavier, I ducked into Église de Saint-Georges where I discovered high Mass going on, in Latin! When the congregation genuflected, I took this shot of the altar.

Mass was just getting out at the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, just a little further on in Vieux Lyon, so I could visit the stained glass windows and get a good look at the famous horloge clock which could calculate Easter. (It doesn’t work anymore.)

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Vieux Lyon


Finding Cherif, the Canuts and the Celts

To prepare for this trip, I tried to train my ear to hear French better by watching a lot of French police procedurals on TV. I watched four seasons of “Cherif” because it was shot in Lyon. I was fascinated by the exterior location for the police station which was across the street from Cherif’s apartment, just steps from a cliff overlooking the Sâone river. I researched until I discovered the little park on Place Bellevue in the Croix Rousse district, seen near the top of the map below. I had to take a tram from the hotel to the Perrache Train Station (that Isabelle used) where I transferred to the Metro to take me to City Hall (where the fountain is). At City Hall I had to transfer to another Metro line that went up the hill to Croix Rousse.

Croix Rousse at the top, Old City on the Left, Hotel near Bottom, Airport on Right

If silk worms are native to China, how did the silk industry get to France? When King François I conquered Milan in 1515, he was amazed at the work of Leonardo da Vinci and persuaded him to move to France. The “Mona Lisa” was purchased by Francis I for 4,000 gold ducats, probably from da Vinci himself. François I also envied the Italian silk trade so he invited the first two Italian silk weavers to Lyon and supported them, giving them privileges including the right to create silk fabrics, and to extrude gold and silver to make thread to embellish the silk. He purchased their output and kept their taxes low. This, in turn, attracted the best foreign workers. The silk and silkworm-growing business thrived in Lyon and the heavy silk damask curtains, wall coverings and upholstery for Versailles came from Lyon.

The silk workers, Canuts, lived North of City hall, up the hill in the Croix Rousse district. The big technological breakthrough of the French silk industry was the development of punch cards to speed the accurate hand-looming of images woven into the silk, like the tapestries in the residence of the Archbishop in Lyon. I was very interested in seeing how they loomed silk using this Jacquard process.

On my way to find Maison Des Canuts, I passed the Croix Rousse neighborhood farmer’s market on a Saturday morning.

Croix Rousse Saturday Morning Neighborhood Farmer’s Market

I was at the door of Maison Des Canuts when they opened at 10 a.m. so I could buy a ticket for the demonstration. Too bad — the only demonstration was at 2 p.m. and I had to buy the ticket online, I couldn’t buy it in person. This meant I had to go all the way back to the hotel, because I don’t have the skills to buy something on my phone in French! I was dejected, but on my way back to the metro I took a detour to find the Cherif location, Place Bellevue. It made me so happy to find a location that I had only seen on my computer screen. The Hollywood screenwriter part of me is not dead, I guess.

Cherif’s Police Station was in the building on the left. Many exterior scenes were shot here.

I got back to the hotel and when I tried to buy the ticket online, my credit card refused to go through! I tried to contact the bank, but with the 12 hour difference, it was midnight in California. I was out of luck. Dejected, I went back to Maison Des Canuts at 1:45 and pleaded with them. “I have come such a long way, from California, and this is my only chance to see the demonstration. Isn’t there any way to fit me in?” They said no, sit over there, but it felt like a weak “no.” Eventually, they put a yellow dot on me and collected the admission price. The tour and demonstration of the authentic 19th century Jacquard hand loom was mostly in French, the yellow dot indicated English speakers for the guide (about 20% of the group).

The Weaving Studios Required 12-foot Ceilings to Accommodate the Jacquard Punch Card System

The design to be woven into the silk is programmed onto the cardboard punch cards. When the weaver moves a certain part of the loom, it advances the instructions one line and the punch cards pull up the correct threads so the shuttle with the correct color thread can be woven through. It is loud, noisy and heavy. The canuts were paid little even though the silk merchants became wealthy and we learned about labor unrest history during the tour. I loved learning about the history and the silkworm production (astonishingly, Louis Pasteur was involved in silk worm hygiene), but the silk available at the end was outrageously expensive. Even though later I also toured the museum of the competing silk maker Brochier Soieries, near the banks of the Rhone River, my entire silk budget was gobbled up by the purchase of a single 75€ scarf from Cath-Am in the old city.



One of the highlights of Lyon is the Lugdunum Museum and Roman Theaters. On the map above, you can see that Fourière and Lugdunum make a V-shape pointing to the old city. The V represents the two prongs of the funicular that carries passengers up the steep hill. This hill is the site of the Roman theaters and the museum on one side the the big Fourvière church on the other. The first thing I saw in the museum was this magnificent bronze chariot from 700 BC, before the Romans arrived. The wheels are bronze, too. The central bronze vessel is believed to carry something ceremonial and venerated by the Celts, whom the Romans called Galli (derogotory), even though the Gauls sacked Rome in 390 BC. Around 50 BC, Julius Caesar drove out many, but some assimilated.

Celtic Bronze Chariot 700BC Lugdunum (now Lyon)

The mosaic floors in this museum were MUCH better than what I saw in Sicily. This is just one of them, and we could walk on them!

I loved Lyon.

2 Responses »

  1. Merveilleuse! Brings back fond memories of a week I spent in Lyon years ago. My all-day cooking class started with that outdoor market in the Croix Rouge district, where we bought the freshest possible ingredients. Another interesting visit was to the Museum of Miniatures where the craftsmanship was stunning. Lyon is a lovely city, and its flavor very different from Paris.
    Thanks for the photos & sharing!

  2. No wonder you loved Lyon, Anet! Magnificent art and architecture and a fascinating history.
    I admire your tenacity and am so glad it worked out that you could join the tour!
    So many awesome memories made. Great to keep them forever thru your personal images and words.
    Again, thanks for sharing!

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